There really is no place like home. Home is familiarity and support among loved ones. It is the place where ideally one can totally be him or herself and be comfortable. For children who are placed in foster care, even though they have been removed from an unsafe situation, they were still removed from all that was familiar to them. And in too many cases the children experience one or more placement moves while in foster care. All this disruption affects the children in many ways, but it especially impacts their ability to function and perform well in school.

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) are volunteers that help children in foster care transition and receive the services and support they need while in foster care. Northeast Georgia CASA volunteer Claire Jones came to CASA with a great knowledge of the child welfare system having been a social service case manager in another state. Claire was appointed to represent a 15-year-old youth, “Ryan,” who had been put on long term suspension from school due to his behaviors. Claire knew it was important to get to the root of why Ryan was acting out. A current psychological on Ryan was needed. Claire advocated with the court and the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) to make sure this was done, but that was only the first step to get Ryan the help he needed.

Claire’s next step was to make sure everyone involved in Ryan’s education-his DFCS case manager, teachers and the school social worker, foster parents, as well as the juvenile court attorneys were connected with the appropriate information. Claire helped ensure that a meeting at the school was conducted after the results of the psychological were received. All the parties involved, especially the attorney for Ryan, were needed to make sure that Ryan was placed in the correct classes so he could be successful in school. Claire was the connector and collaborator who persistently put the right players and pieces together for Ryan.

Northeast Georgia CASA is in search of 20 more CASA volunteers in order to be “connectors” for all the children in foster care in our area. The CASA volunteer opportunity is unique. It enables ordinary citizens from all walks of life to get involved in juvenile court proceedings and use their unique skills and experiences to help ensure children in foster care have their needs and best interests met. There is a time commitment and it is important to be objective; however, it is one of the most rewarding volunteer opportunities anyone will find.

For further information about CASA please email Northeast Georgia CASA Executive Director, Melissa Mitchell at melissa.mitchell@northeastgacasa.org or call the Northeast Georgia CASA office at 706-886-1098.

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